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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Peace negotiations between gov’t, communist rebels resumes next month

( AFP Photo / Sophie Mignon/ Manila Bulletin)
The government is set to resume the next round of peace negotiations with the communist rebel group next month.

But before the fifth round of formal talks, Labor Secretary and chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello III said the two parties agreed to conduct an informal meeting later this month to tackle proposed socioeconomic reforms and interim ceasefire.

Philippines’ Presidential Advisers on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza (L) and Silvestre H. Bello III take part in a meeting as part of the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDF organised by the Dutch government on April 2, 2017 in the Dutch town of Noordwijk aan Zee.

The arrangement of the negotiations was reached during a conversation between Bello and National Democratic Front (NDF) panel chair Fidel Agcaoili last Sunday.

“We have an initial understanding that we will probably have the – iyong naudlot na [the botched] fifth round, will be probably realized second or third week of August,” Bello said in a Palace press briefing.

“But before that para maganda, this time we will have a good result, there will be an informal meeting between the panels and the meeting may be in Asia or in the Philippines,” he added.

He said the NDF suggested Japan as the venue of the informal talks but he asked for reconsideration since the place was far. Bello instead proposed the Philippines or Hong Kong as alternative venue.

Asked about the date of the informal negotiations, Bello said it would be held on the third week or last week of July.

“There will be an informal meeting and they will discuss mainly on the issue of socioeconomic reforms and possible interim unilateral ceasefire,” he said.

“Mag-uusap na sila para pagdating ng August, maliwanag na [They will discuss so by August, it will be clear] and it will only be for submission to the panel for formal approval by the panels,” he said.

On the proposed interim ceasefire, Bello said the two panels are considering the creation of a joint team to monitor such truce while talks are ongoing.  He admitted that choosing the “referee” was a “sensitive” topic in the negotiations.

Last month, the government called off the peace talks with the NDF after failing to resolve a dispute over the rebels’ intensified attacks on state security forces.

The suspension of the talks came as the government continued to battle with terrorists linked to the Islamic State group in Marawi City.  The communist group earlier directed New People’s Army to step up offensive against troops implementing martial law in Mindanao.

Bello however clarified the cancellation of the peace talks was not limited to the NPA attacks.

“The reality is that there is an existing armed conflict. That’s the reason why we are talking to end the armed conflict,” he said. He admitted that they expect some skirmishes once in a while during the peace negotiations.

But when the communist rebels were ordered to accelerate attacks on government troops, Bello said such action violated the mutually agreed framework on creating an environment conducive to peace talks.

Bello remained optimistic about the prospect of the peace talks with the communist rebels.

 “There is always hope for a peace process,” he said.

 There would be humps and bumps but we would stay in the course of the process because there is no alternative. This is the best legacy that our President can give to our country — an enduring and lasting peace for everyone, Bello added.

Tags: fifth round of formal talks, Government Peace Panel, Manila Bulletin, Next round of peace negotiations between gov’t communist rebels resumes next month, next round of talks resumes next month, Peace talks, Silvestre Bello III

By Genalyn Kabiling

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